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Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not?

new-to-libre - 9 months ago -

I've had an interesting realization. If someone had the files for whatever video they wanted to watch or song they wanted to listen to, a media player and a computer, that person could just enjoy that media using their own computer. (Or that hypothetical person could just use a cd/dvd/blu-ray player and some sort of device to output the signal like a tv or computer and/or a speaker.) If this is the case wouldn't that mean that streaming services are at least partially having someone else's computer do your computing and thus SaaSS? I'm wondering if peple agree/disagree or just what everyone thinks of this idea.


Replies (13)

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - antalepo - 9 months ago -

I agree. All interactions out of your control are SaaSS (for example downloading a package, torrenting or viewing a web page). However, those activities can still be freedom respecting. Therefore SaaSS does not imply freedom issues.

Nevertheless, the streaming services you mentioned are proprietary and do have freedom issues. Looking at the traditional free software principles from the perspective of your rights with the files:
1. Run for whatever purpose - DRM and agreements (attempt to) prevent this
2. Study and modify - Not really applicable
3. Redistribution of the original - Same as 1
4. Redistribution of a modified copy - Same as 1

Additionally, the clients used to access the content are often themselves proprietary.

On a related note, software like youtube-dl and Invidious make it possible to access otherwise proprietary SaaSS in what is through the above reasoning a freedom respecting manner. Despite that, I advice against using it for that purpose since the services still forces propritary software onto its creators and strongly encourages users to use its proprietary clients. If there is an alternative that doesn't force proprietary software onto anyone, it would be wrong of you not to use that instead.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - new-to-libre - 9 months ago -

When I think of SaaSS (Service as a Software Substitute) I am thinking of activities that could reasonably be done solely on your computer without connecting to a server, assuming you had the files downloaded or otherwise locally accessible on your computer's hard drive/ssd or an external drive of some kind, (i.e. editing documents w/o collaboration, playing most games, playing media files like music/video.)

I am not thinking of things like viewing webpages, e-commerce, downloading files/packages, or communication over the internet.

My idea was that you could either get physical media with the videos/music on it or download the files from a torrent or ftp server and play them in a media player like vlc on your local machine rather than in a web browser.

Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - bill-auger - 9 months ago -

certainly for yourtube, it is obvious that people could
accomplish that task without that particular website, or any
remote website, or any website at all - people have been
listening to music and watching video on computers for years
before yourtube existed - and as you pointed out, people had been
achieving those very same tasks for most of the last century,
without the internet or any computer

there was never any confusion about this - most people had "the
files" for all of their favorite media - "the files" went by
funny names such as: records, cassettes, CDs, VHS, and DVDs; and
the person using them, actually owned a copy - which means, that
it would not stop working if you forgot to pay your monthly
subscription fee, or if the store it came from went out of
business

today people (over)use (misuse) the web for even the simplest
tasks, such as communication; and they rarely host their
own services, or run any local software at all; which they could,
for nearly everything that people do with their computers - to a
first approximation, the sort of websites which are most popular
today, are all SaaSS, per the FSF definition (SaaSS not SasS);
because the job they do, could be accomplished with
locally-running free software, and without a central server
"middle-man" - indeed, most could be accomplished without the
internet or a computer (and have been for many decades)

in reality, the only necessity for a web browser, is to get some
information, which is not available any other way - everything
else is just shoe-horning some other use-case onto a tool which
was designed for a very different purpose - its like a carpenter
with only one "super-mega-omni-tool" in his toolbox - people
engaged in serious business would not use such a tool - they
would have a complete tool-set; and use the proper tool for each
specific aspect of the job at hand

for example, instead of say: twitter, one could host their own
instance of mastodon - but thats really overkill for the
trivial task they accomplish - essentially, those are just
glorified RSS feeds - better yet, people could use scuttlebutt,
and eliminate the need for a bloated web browser entirely - or
better yet, grab a crayon, scribble silly pictures on a napkin,
put it in an envelope, and hand it to your friendly neighborhood
postman-person, for personalized delivery to grandma's house :)

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - bill-auger - 9 months ago -

Therefore SaaSS does not imply freedom issues.

it always does - you have zero software freedom while using
someone else's software, which you can not read or modify - it
makes absolutely no difference to the user, whether the server is
running free software or proprietary software - that software is
invisible and untouchable; so you have no idea what it actually
is, regardless of whatever promises your read on the host's
enticing website - less than free software, its even less than
"open" source; because its not even "open"

streaming services are at least partially having someone else's
computer do your computing

it really should not go without saying, that such passive
activities as watching a movie or listening to tunes, do not
reasonably qualify as "computation" - you dont actually need any
software freedom for these purposes - if anything, what you need
to exercise any sort of freedom, is permission to modify the data
files; which you probably will never get

If there is an alternative that doesn't force proprietary
software onto anyone

yep, good 'ol phonograph records and crayons never imposed any
proprietary software onto anyone, and never will :)

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - bill-auger - 9 months ago -

activities that could reasonably be done solely on your computer without connecting to a server

thats the idea; but again, for the most part, these are activities which require no computer at all

any activity which could be accomplished without a computer, surely can be accomplished without
someone else's computer, or proprietary software

AFAIAC, the question of "is this SaaS?", is only interesting regarding some actual computation,
for which a computer is absolutely required - even software as sophisticated an GIMP or blender,
barely qualifies; because in theory, you could do the same thing with paint and canvas - most of
the networking and SaaS-related problems, are a matter of privacy and not software freedom

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - freemor - 9 months ago -

I've always been surprised by the younger generations willingness to lease their media instead of owning it. Especially since there have been several cases where music services have shut down and in doing so basically told the users, "Yeah, all that music you thought you paid for... too bad." ( such as: https://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/yahoo-music-store-shutting-down-166791 )

It boggles my mind that young people don't even consider things that used to be the norm. like VCR/PVRs.

Clearly Big Media has done a very good job of removing such things from the public consciousness in those to young to remember Universal Studios vs. Sony Corporation of America. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Corp._of_America_v._Universal_City_Studios,_Inc.). For me it looks like they've almost gotten that long ago dream by making people forget that people used to do that quite legally. And that law has never been over turned. In fact here in Canada it was even extended to include "space shifting" (ripping a CD/DVD to play it on a device of your choosing like your tablet).

For the longest time now I have had a NAS (made from and old junker of a desktop and 4 internal drives in a raid 5 array) on my LAN. I store all the media I owns there and thus can stream it anywhere in the house. I don't lose access to my media if the internet goes down. The NAS is also excellent for backups (rsync). With a little bit more work I can even stream it remotely without ever exposing the NAS to the WAN side. I use SSH tunneling (Pivoting through my self hosted server to reach the LAN) but something like tinc would work just as well.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - antalepo - 9 months ago -

bill-auger wrote:

Therefore SaaSS does not imply freedom issues.

it always does - you have zero software freedom while using
someone else's software, which you can not read or modify - it
makes absolutely no difference to the user, whether the server is
running free software or proprietary software - that software is
invisible and untouchable; so you have no idea what it actually
is, regardless of whatever promises your read on the host's
enticing website - less than free software, its even less than
"open" source; because its not even "open"

That's fair. I misunderstood the term. Using the more narrow definition, I absolutely agree with you.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - antalepo - 9 months ago -

I've always been surprised by the younger generations willingness to lease their media instead of owning it. Especially since there have been several cases where music services have shut down and in doing so basically told the users, "Yeah, all that music you thought you paid for... too bad." ( such as: https://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/yahoo-music-store-shutting-down-166791 )

It's convenient, everyone else uses it and stories like that are too infrequent to be remembered and have an influence on decisions. I used to be that person too, before my interest in technology led me down this path of freedom and I realized that this is even a possibility.

It boggles my mind that young people don't even consider things that used to be the norm.

It isn't really that strange. People who aren't introduced to that don't even know that it's an option. All your friends use Spotify? Do you want to listen to music? Spotify will be your first, and from your point of view your only, choice.

Personally, I used to use Spotify. It was only once I asked myself how to avoid their invasive tracking (this was prior to me being concerned about freedom) that all these other ways became known to me. The privacy and freedom communities showed me what they thought were reasonable choices, just like everyone else did with Spotify. If you aren't exposed to these ideas of freedom, how are you supposed to know it's a possibility in the first place?

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - new-to-libre - 9 months ago -

Part of the appeal of Youtube specifically is to create and share your own content with the world, so physical media can only get you so far. Even then, someone could just host an ftp server that people push their files to and then those files could be downloaded and played on a local machine.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - new-to-libre - 9 months ago -

When I am talking about the content I am specifically referring to the music/videos and possibly various works people have written.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - freemor - 9 months ago -

It isn't really that strange. People who aren't introduced to that don't even know that it's an option....

It was not my intention to blame the people. And I agree with what you've
said. But what I have seen over the decades is a long game being played by big
media in which the goal is to hide, co-opt, or de-legitimize totally legal,
user centric, Freedom supporting options. One needs to bare in mind that I'm
still confused why people gave up their wonderful cast iron frying pans for
those Teflon covered, way too thin, aluminium pans that are out there now. But
it was the same game. Make cast iron seem bad, flood the market with cheap
Teflon ones, advertise like crazy. And a 10 - 20 years down the road it's only
the odd "kook" that is still clinging to his cast iron pans (which are probably
the same ones from 20yrs ago).

Any ire I have is for big media and their obvious long term goal to do away
with media ownership. I have watched as they slowly moved people off of media
that allowed recording; tape -> CD, VHS -> DVD, then they started phasing out
physical media and introduced DRM, To the current day where the model is moving
people to the idea of using a "cloud" service (a.k.a perpetually renting)
instead of even thinking about owning.

I guess I find it hard to understand because I grew up with cassettes and VHS
tapes. In the age where you just recorded the shows you watch straight from the
over-the-air TV or radio signals. What you liked you bought official albums or
VHS copied of to get the full experience. But You owned those, forever. So with
that being my formative years it's hard to get my head around perpetually
renting. It is a model that would have been a laughing stock back when I was
young.

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - bill-auger - 9 months ago -

Using the more narrow definition, I absolutely agree with you.

i dont think it is a narrow definition - its just a different way of looking at the very same thing

just yesterday i saw a website, enticing people to store their files on the "cloud" service (for a monthly fee of course) - it read something like: "never worry about losing your files again" - that is how some people consider it: like putting money in a bank for safe keeping, or hiring a plumber because you dont know how

the other way to look at it, is that you do still need to worry about losing your files; because that website could shut down at any time - if someone is worried about losing files; the only wise option, is to manage their preservation yourself; rather than paying people, who you have never met, to do it for you

RE: Are streaming services (i.e Netflix, Spotify, Disney+, Audible, etc) SaaSS or not? - bill-auger - 9 months ago -

Part of the appeal of Youtube specifically is to create and share your own content with the world

people have been doing that since before yourtube existed - no third-party cenrtalized service needs to mediate it, much less that it is one, and only one such third-party which could help people share files - people do not need any help with that - sharing files is one of the first popular things that people used the internet for - in fact, it is the reason why HTTP (aka: the web) was invented - and it was invented such that anyone and everyone could self-publish inexpensively, and without any assistance or over-sight from any other authority or "host"

the word "sharing" is another white-wash jargon term - "sharing" something implies that two people have the same some thing (such as: sharing a pizza, sharing a dorm room) - users of those streaming websites do not share any thing; and the owner of the website does not share anything either - most of the media on youtube is not freely licensed for the activity, defined by the word "sharing" - in that context, "sharing" means nothing more that sending someone a URL, pointing to where the media can bee viewed (as in: look, but do not touch) - that is like giving someone directions to find a museum, then considering that as: "sharing the museum" or "sharing a dinosaur" - neither of those people posses a dinosaur, nor did they "share the experience" of seeing a dinosaur together - the only thing that was shared, was the information of how to locate someone else's dinosaurs, for passive spectating

of course,, most people would not want to own a dinosaur; and most of the "contents" of those streaming services is not worth keeping; but that only makes it less reasonable to use the word "sharing" to describe the activiaty - in order to share something, both people must actually want it - this is really only "browsing"; which is why web-browsers got that name - they are not web-sharers - there is of course, other software for file sharing, except that now, people who actually share files are called "pirates"

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